Lyrical Laughs

Sunday, December 27, 2015

I slaved all day over... never mind

The holidays are a time when all my baking supplies get hauled out for one continuous bake-fest. You would swear an archaeological dig was taking place in my kitchen the week before Christmas. Cookie cutters, bowls of various sizes, rolling pins and baking sheets are resurrected for a few weeks. It often goes past New Year’s these days so we can get one last baking bonanza in for Second Born to take cookies back to college.

In the past I have sent Spouse to work with mounds of cookies that are wiped out by coworkers in a matter of hours. I’m not a fancy baker and none of the recipes are that complicated (there was that one year when I was cursing the pretzel antlers for reindeer cookies), but it is something I’ve come to enjoy. This year, however, being away for two weeks just before the holidays messed with getting the cookie baking off the ground.

The week before Christmas I had to provide desserts for two of Spouse’s holiday work parties. Normally that would mean mounds of cookies. Still dragging myself back to reality and out of jet lag, my baking tins stayed buried in the cabinet. I opted instead for a no-bake dessert that never fails to impress.

Since this yummy treat is made with a spring form pan it even looks like I slaved away for hours, when all I did was mix ingredients in a couple of bowls, toss them together and pour the end result in the pan aligned with ladyfingers. It was topped with blueberry pie filling and devoured by the end of the party.

Ladyfingers are the best dessert invention ever, next to angel food cake. Both make perfect bases for easy no-bake desserts. My chocolate pudding trifles, just as easy as the ladyfinger pie, have won rave reviews. I enjoy taking full credit for not breaking a sweat when I’m putting these treats together.
Before anyone accuses me of cheating by not baking – color me guilty as charged. Time got away from me this year and that meant the semi-sweet chocolate chips, powdered sugar, new bottle of vanilla and green food coloring have taken a back seat to the ease of no-bake desserts.

It’s not even the baking that takes up the bulk of the time. It’s the cleaning up. I’m sure someone out there can relate to washing endless amounts of bowls, spoons, baking pans, and cooling racks once the baking is done. There is a delicate balance between cooling the first batch of cookies just enough so you can transfer them to airtight containers and ready the cooling racks for the next batch. I never seem to have enough storage containers to hold all those cookies until I can transfer them to the right size gift-giving containers. I’m exhausted thinking about it and I haven’t even touched on sweeping and mopping the powdered, sugared, chocolate chipped kitchen floor yet.

Since neither daughter is home this year for the holidays I’m sure that’s also had an effect on my baking mojo. Case in point: it is December 22 as of this writing and the artificial tree we borrowed from The Neighbors (neither child was here for the annual examine-every-tree-on-the-tree-farm-before-choosing-one) stands unadorned in front of our living room window. Feel free to weep openly for me right now.

The Love Couple will descend upon our home for a belated family Christmas right after Second Born arrives home in early January, and it is likely cookies will be at the ready. We will still make some to send for the college kids. I will also still continue to cheat with no-bake desserts when the occasion calls for a quick fix that looks like it took hours, and I will enjoy the accolades.

After all, going bake-free is not necessarily a piece of cake.

P.S. The tree did get decorated on Christmas Eve and will remain so until everyone is together. And I broke down and made cookies after writing this post. It was either that or eat the entire bag of semi-sweet chips I had in the freezer. I'm still not convinced I made the best choice.


Friday, December 18, 2015

What's in a name nobody can pronounce?

I was walking toward my office on a recent November morning when I ran into an attorney I knew from our building, heading in my direction. As he passed by he smiled and said, "Morning, Janelle."

Later on that same day I slipped over to the office of a CPA who works across the hall to drop something off. He was having a conversation with someone about the good old days, and as I opened the door he said, "You know what I mean, right Denise?"

Sigh.

My mom gifted me with a name that is not only uncommon but also misspelled and mispronounced a large percent of the time. I like my name, though I didn't as a child, when being different meant being teased. As I grew older it was no longer a nuisance, that is, unless I wanted to see my name spelled out on a keychain or a Christmas ornament along with more common names in store displays.

In high school, where your last name becomes the first thing teachers try to pronounce, my given name was lost in the shuffle of an 11-letter surname. Only the first four letters – Jani – appeared on most forms, which led most teachers to believe my name must be Janice. I know some wonderful people with the name Janice (hand wave to Second Born’s BFF’s mom), but I didn’t want to be called by that name. High school teachers don’t have a lot of patience for a name they can’t pronounce, or remember for that matter. If I was going to be different it wasn’t because they couldn’t pronounce it. I became “J” to several teachers for the bulk of my high school sentence. I mean attendance.

When we moved to Maine we also moved to the Land of Janine, or at least that was how it felt to me. Over the years my mother had told me her choice for my name was because she wanted a name close to her own – Jennie. It certainly didn’t come out of a book for common Italian names.

In Maine my name is quite popular among the French-Canadian population. The first time someone pronounced it without faltering I was shocked. When they spelled it correctly without any prompting I thought I was on Candid Camera.

Growing up not being able to find my name easily on anything other than custom made items should have deterred me from putting the same burden on my own children. Not so much.

First Born will occasionally post a shared message on social media about knowing how it feels to never find her name spelled correctly. While her name itself is not uncommon, the spelling is just unusual enough to fall into the skipped-over-on-display category. I should feel bad but I have to admit, the quirkiness of its spelling suits her uniquely beautiful personality.

We were less creative (and more tired) when Second Born came along. She can find her name on just about anything personalized. She also had her own unique personality from the get-go, and a common name has surely not made her fade into the background. All I know is that neither of them seemed scarred for life because of their names.

We included middle names with a certain amount of emphasis for when we need to call them out for something. It’s difficult to get the point across that you’re miffed when you slap a soft middle name on like Angel or Bunny.

If they have children of their own I’m sure our kids will play the name game when they have to agree on a moniker for their offspring. Will they use family names or choose something distinctive? Only time will tell.

I can pretty much guarantee no matter what names they decide on, their kids won’t always be Angels.

Monday, December 14, 2015

19 toothbrushes and counting

It’s going to be a very different Christmas in our home this year. First Born and The Groom will be spending their first Christmas as a married couple in their Philadelphia apartment. Second Born will be celebrating her Christmas and the end of her semester abroad in Rome with her best friend. Because Spouse is on call for his job we’re not able to make much in the way of plans. I was just thinking that maybe it’s time for a change in seasonal decorating, when a unique motif presented itself quite by accident.

A few days before we were leaving for our Excellent Adventure I somehow veered off on a cleaning spree. It wasn't on purpose - cleaning never happens on purpose in my house.

I headed toward the bathroom planning to grab a few washcloths for our impending trip abroad. Don't ask me why - someone suggested bringing washcloths. Upon opening the drawer that I’ve been stuffing washcloths into for several months (years maybe), several of them threatened to jump out at me. I dug a little deeper to find out what was causing the overflow that I had been ignoring.

Toothbrushes, that's what. Old toothbrushes had been stuffed into the bottom of the drawer under the washcloths. I do believe there was a couple in there from when First Born was in middle school (she’s 27). These were old toothbrushes that would most likely never be used for anything but had been saved "just in case" we needed to scrub every wall in the house with them.

Let me just point out that the idea of saving these toothbrushes for future use is not based on factual studies or previous experience. At no time did Spouse ever wipe out a dozen or more brushes while cleaning grout. We have become toothbrush hoarders because nobody said to stop saving them. I have to admit it made for a colorful array of handles against washcloths. Naturally, I took a picture.

Rather than be disgusted by this find, I considered it a sign. Here was my new Christmas motif. Imagine if we took only what we could find around the house and decided that would be what our new holiday decorations were based on. I’m thinking a colorful variety of toothbrushes strung side-by-side on the mantle (I mean, if we had a mantle). That would surely lift our holiday spirits.

Besides this not-so-interesting discovery in the bottom of the washcloth drawer I also unearthed 12 plastic clothespins. On occasion I will put something on a hanger and need a couple of extra clips to keep it on there while it dries hanging in the bathroom. Apparently this collection of a few clips morphed into half the bag of clothespins, which explains why I always run out during the summer when I’m hanging clothes outside.

It’s a mystery to me how the smallest room in the house with the least amount of drawers has become the collection room. We won’t even discuss the bathroom cabinets. Even though they go through a period cleaning (is every three years considered periodic?) I strongly believe someone sneaks in when we are at work and jams another box of bandaids or an extra tube of sunblock in there just to mess with me.

At this point the last thing I should be concerned about is what’s in the bathroom drawers. I’m leaving within hours for vacation and there is still plenty to get done. In fact, I just thought of one more thing I can’t quite scratch off my to-do list yet.

I still haven't packed washcloths.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Unfunny

I want to say here and now that I am Not At All politically savvy. This is not a political statement or opinion. This is a citizen, a worker, a wife, a mom speaking from the heart.

I sit here this morning in my living room, head full of moments from the last two weeks of travel to Budapest, Hungary and various parts of India. There is so much I want to write about - the beauty and irony of these two countries, amazing memories with family that we traveled with and became a part of, the craziness of cramming it all in, and the jet lag that follows. All of that will come. At this particular moment, though, the humor of life is buried beneath an overwhelming disbelief of what is happening all around us.

Ignorance.

Fear.

Hate.

They go hand in hand. One begets the other. Right now there is a person spewing hate to this whole country. He has followers. That alone terrifies me to the core. You would think I'd fear terrorists more, but to me a terrorist is one with an unquenchable thirst for control. What separates this alleged presidential candidate from them?

I am sickened by the knowledge that any individual could belch out such a warped agenda and make it Word. I have literally lost sleep over the fact that every day I'm reading stories of innocent people who have suddenly become the enemy to those who buy into this perverted concept and are being verbally and physically attacked.

I can't wrap my head around how we got here and how anyone - ANYONE - could possibly agree with the absolute crap is being hoisted upon us as the way to save our country - by someone who had it all handed to him. Does anyone truly believe he can relate to the working middle class who have jumped on his "Make America Great Again" bandwagon? We may be good enough to bring the car around or serve his coffee - that's it. He doesn't 'get' you. He Will Never Get You.

This has hit me hard since we returned from our trip for a few reasons. While Budapest has come a long way in moving forward there was still that post-war feel in some areas. But I could see that our second born had a certain air of confidence as tour guide during our visit. She felt safe and so did we, despite the fact that this was a very unfamiliar environment.

In India we were the ones who stood out, with our fair skin and obvious cluelessness about the culture. Still, other than taking the warnings about pickpockets very seriously, I don't think any of us felt unsafe or at all threatened at any time. We were warmly embraced by our son-in-law's family and invited to participate in the Indian/Bengali wedding ceremony of our daughter and her husband. The whole experience of seeing these two countries was the trip of a lifetime.

They say there's no place like home. That's true, and we were very glad to be back in our own surroundings. But something has happened, a seed has been planted for an insidious branch of malice that I don't understand.

We just came back from a place where Islam is the second largest religion. We were surrounded by people who were Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, and a couple of religions I had never heard of who - like us - were sightseeing and spending time with families, living their everyday lives.

Since returning home, it shakes me up to say that my husband and I have had a conversation we never thought we'd have. We are actually concerned that, if the contorted state of mind this candidate is projecting continues to spread, people who look even slightly different (i.e. not white bread American) - like our son-in-law and his family who we love dearly - could potentially be in danger just walking down the street.

If we have not fully come to our senses and this candidate somehow manages to win the nomination, whether he wins the presidential vote or not, that nomination will be another nail in the coffin of this country's fate. That's exactly what the terrorists are waiting for - to divide and conquer - and he is just the man to provide them with our heads on a silver platter. I firmly believe that.

There are a hundred better ways to say what I'm clumsily trying to express. Every part of me wants to change the direction of those who think constantly being suspicious and on the defensive is how we should live. I just keep hoping anyone who is considering bringing this person into office will have an epiphany of sanity before it's too late. We need to open our eyes and use our voices. We need to learn more about those who are different rather than conclude that different is bad.

We need to stop following fear.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Those three little words

Every once in a while my husband of more than 30 years will hear me utter those words every man longs to hear. I’ve even been brazen enough to blurt it out in front of witnesses who might be needed in the future to quote me if needed. That much anticipated, powerful phrase?

“You were right.”

The last time I shared this thought out loud another male (someone else’s husband, naturally) immediately volunteered to confirm that I was lucid and in my right mind. These guys know how to stick together. They even indirectly dared me to put my laptop where my mouth is and write about this momentous occasion.

It’s not like I don’t give Spouse credit where credit is due. We never would have made it through all these years if I hadn’t let him believe he was right every so often. It could be that I’m mellowing with age and have decided that life is short and I should make it clear just how much I cherish the simple things, like admitting he knew how many Tupperware containers I left behind at church when I wasn’t quite sure. By the way, whoever mistakenly took my large square container with the burp lid should know there’s a tracking device on it.

My willingness to admit my hubby is in the know could simply be that I want to keep on his good side, since the older we get the more we realize that we have almost one working brain between the two of us. For the most part we are in sync. There are times, however, when the message doesn’t quite compute. Take, for instance, last weekend.

We attended a fundraising event Saturday that began with a silent auction where we browsed through several items while enjoying scrumptious hors d’oeuvres and wine, followed by a live auction. Mind you, ahead of time Spouse and I sat down (well, we were in the car at the time, so we had to be sitting) and discussed just how much money we were willing to part with that evening. I don’t mean on the way to the auction, I mean this conversation occurred a few days before. In other words, we should have been prepared.

Here’s what we did wrong: We each had a bidding number. We started out with filling each other in on what we bid on, but somewhere along the way we sort of lost track.

Let me just express how thankful I am that we were constantly outbid during the live auction, because our total “winnings” from the silent auction added up to twice as much as we had anticipated writing a check out for.

In the end it was a fun night and we did scoff up some pretty good deals, and neither was pointing a finger at the other about the cost. Even though we were seduced by the power of our bidding numbers, neither of us was right – or wrong.  We got a little carried away for a worthwhile cause. The best part is that we’ll be putting our Sam’s Club gift card to good use this week and after the holidays we can look forward to a night in a very nice Freeport hotel.

So this time neither of us had to utter those three little words that can be hard to say. Instead we traded them in for those five vital words that bond a couple in the midst of midlife and an empty nest…

“Have you seen my glasses?”

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Young and carefree... and then Paris

At 2:46 a.m. my cell phone buzzed with a message from Second Born, who is spending the weekend in Amsterdam (six hours ahead) with two very close friends.

"We talked and decided not to do Paris next weekend in light of the attacks there this weekend..."

She continued briefly with what they think their alternate plans might be. I didn't tell her that I had woken up at 2:42 a.m., and when she messaged me I had been reading several posts on my Facebook page about the attacks, the deaths, and the shock of life altered in one moment. My stomach and mind were churning with the thought that she had been looking forward to next weekend's Paris excursion practically since she began her study abroad in early September. As I lay in bed by the light of my cell phone I knew that we needed to talk with her about Paris and a change of plans as soon as she returned from Amsterdam. But she and her friends had already grasped the seriousness of it and that this changed everything.

This changed everything.

I've described myself as living vicariously through my children who have been to many more places in their short lives than I have in my 55 years. It has always given me enormous pleasure to do so because I was afraid to take chances they are taking, and I would like to believe that we've encouraged them to get out there and do what they want to do. This is the time while they are young and carefree.

There is nothing carefree about trying to find out if any of your study abroad classmates were among the injured or dead in this attack. Thankfully none were. But their world just got a little bigger and a little less naive. Despite the fact that hundreds of college students travel to places like Paris all year for these experiences, their main worry is often how many suitcases to bring and where to find the best pubs. Not what to do in case the city you're living in or visiting is attacked.

Maybe I'm the one who is naive. Do they review terrorist attacks in classes leading up to these programs? Do they tell you to be vigilant and prepared on your way to a restaurant or a concert hall? Because my sense has been that my daughter and her friends have been comfortable this whole time with planning weekend jaunts via airplane or train or bus to any number of other countries, while I hold my breath until she sends a message that she is safely back to her dorm in Budapest.

Our children are living in a world where they are using social media to let family and friends know they are all right. A world where Elysee Palace, the residence of the president of the French Republic, responded to this horrible, grisly attack with tweets vowing retribution. A world where sick, pathetic, lying scum are watching and waiting, using these same resources to make contact and recruit and plan, and then celebrating the death of innocence.

I can't wait until she is home on U.S. soil in two months - not that being here means she and her sister  living in Philly - rife with crime - can't be harmed because we are now all too familiar with shootings in theaters and malls and schools, and since even before 9/11 we have clearly not been blind to terrorist attacks. I know she is having a fantastic experience and it's not that I want to take any of that away from her. The exception is that I would take away the conversation they had to have last night about Paris. I would take away the message this tragedy sends, that "young and carefree" may become a distant memory.

I would take away anything that makes me want to stop living vicariously through my children.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

And the list goes on and on

Our big trip to Hungary and India is just a few weeks away. You know what that means.

The lists have begun.

I’ve been throwing together lists for a while now. They just aren’t exactly all in one place. This is because I start a list wherever I am at the moment whenever I happen to think about something we need to do, buy, or take. Last Sunday I had to force myself to refrain from writing “shots” on the notepad app on my cell phone during the sermon. Not that our priest made me think of shots – and I’m talking about inoculations, not the tequila kind of shot – it was just one of those things that popped into my head.

Fortunately, I did remember to make that note at the end of the service, as well as put a calendar reminder on my phone to call my doctor’s office the next morning. Maybe I should consider making notes to recall what the sermon was about.

Sometime last week I was up at two in the morning thinking about some detail to include on a list. I noted it on my phone because I sure as heck wasn’t going to get out of bed and let my feet touch the cold floor. From there my mind wandered to things I had absolutely no control over at that hour, such as contacting the bank and buying Immodium to pack, since we’ve been warned numerous times that not drinking the water is no guarantee against getting zapped with stomach issues. It was a long night.

I wish I had taken organization lessons from Second Born before she flew to Budapest. Her lists, which included all-of-the-above plus the financial end (and that entails three different accounts), resembles a system NASA would be proud of. She didn’t learn that from me – that sort of meticulous planning comes from her father’s genes without a doubt. This is why Spouse and I don’t agree when it comes to planning projects in the house. He sees prepping, masking, priming, and sanding before we can paint a room. I see a can of paint and a wall. What’s the problem?

Adding something to a list seems to make it more official and necessary. Spouse is letting me take the reins for the most part with the lists. He may change his mind when I freak out the week before we leave and decide we need new luggage. 

Besides the restrooms on the airplane, which I may have previously mentioned in passing (or in 600 anxious words), there is that short, internal list of my own nervous speculations about this trip. I chalk it up to my Italian upbringing, where worrying is right up there with eating pasta and using your hands to talk. My sister, in her attempt to keep me from going over the edge in my pre-travel panic, reminded me that I had flown all the way to Hawaii by myself at one time. Please, that was 30 years and we will not be discussing how many pounds ago.

Don’t think that all I’m doing is making lists and panicking. Granted, that is part of my repertoire but certainly not the whole picture. Now that Spouse and I have chosen authentic India clothing for the Love Couple’s second ceremony, the excitement is growing stronger each day. While we are in Budapest it will be the start of the region’s very extensive Christmas Fair, which I am very much looking forward to, not to mention the fact that we will see Second Born after almost three months. The fact that we will be joined by several family members in India is a wonderful added bonus to the whole experience. There is much to be delighted about in the coming weeks.

In the meantime,  after measuring our suitcases against the airline's regulations,


guess who's going luggage shopping this weekend?




Sunday, November 1, 2015

A test you can't crunch (anything) for

Last Monday Spouse and I sat in the patient waiting room of our local hospital while I waited to be called in for a scheduled test. Since we hoped to pick up lunch later, he thought it would be a good idea to pull up the menu from a local deli on his iPad and choose what we would like after my procedure.

Here’s the thing. I hadn’t had one bite of food in 36 hours by that point. I was starting to consider gnawing on my arm. Reading about pan seared chicken breast, crispy bacon, fresh mozzarella, and roasted red peppers was making my empty stomach rumble like it was going to knock me off the waiting room chair. Saliva was gathering in the corners of my mouth and I had to lay down the law.

Please. Stop. It.

I’ll be honest. I had been avoiding this particular test – my first colonoscopy - for quite some time, and at my age (I recently celebrated the 16th anniversary of my 39th birthday) it should not be avoided or ignored.

The hardest part of the whole procedure was the beverage (and I use this term very loosely) you must drink in preparation, which, no matter what flavor packet they include with the gallon of liquid you are supposed to down, will still taste like cardboard with clear glue thrown in for texture. I did discover the secret of gulping a glass at a time and chasing it down with flavored seltzer water. That and orange gelatin got me through the several hours it took to almost polish off the stuff until I had achieved an “all clear” – literally.

By the way, my boss asked me after the fact why my doctor didn't just give me the pills you can take for this process now, instead of doing it the "old fashioned way" with witch's brew. Now I want to know what sadistic so-and-so in my doctor's office filled the paperwork out.

The end result is… well, let’s just say your end spends a lot of time sitting, and anyone else in the house will need to understand that their lavatory time had better be kept to a minimum (especially in our case since we only have one bathroom). Tell them to get friendly with the neighbors or the outdoors if necessary.

The doctor had an emergency that morning which pushed appointments back by a couple of hours, but the hospital staff was friendly and accommodating. While I hung out in my lovely hospital gown Spouse helped me score a second warmed up blanket to cover up – good thing since a substantial part of me was blowing in the wind, so to speak.

Eventually a nurse wheeled me into the procedure room. I spotted what had been described to me as a tiny camera that would be used for the test, which didn’t seem all that tiny from my point of view… but I wasn’t sedated yet.

As I lay there eyeing the equipment the nurse was discussing chocolate with someone else in the room. I weakly groaned, “Mmm chocolate”, which somehow set off a sadistic conversation about food and restaurants and great meals. At that moment visions of omelets and paninis and coffee danced in my head, but it was all a fantasy until after I was poked and prodded and released.

The procedure went well and I was given a clean bill of health, a snack, my clothes, and a release form. Spouse was there to take me home. While I did feel relaxed during the procedure, I didn’t feel at all groggy and had actually watched the whole thing in awe. Now I was just plain hungry. Alas, the deli we looked forward to was closed, as was our second choice. What is it with Mondays and local eateries? We landed at a favorite local pizza place where I tried to pace myself after not eating since Saturday evening.

It’s easy to find the funny in this type of situation.  We want to laugh at those uncomfortable moments, and I won’t tell you this was exactly comfortable. But the fact is a few uncomfortable moments can save a life.  You can pretend you’re invited to a tea party  - or maybe a wine tasting party – if it helps you get through the prep drink.

Just as long as you RSVP to this invitation of preventative measure with a Yes.


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Working well (not) together

Last weekend we had a short visit from The Love Couple who happened to be in New Hampshire for a wedding. They came to Maine Saturday morning for about 24 hours – just long enough for it to be a tease, but in a good way. We were very happy to have them here and we made the most of it – after we cleaned the place up.

Yes, even though it’s family, Spouse and I went through the usual panic cleaning routine the night before and the morning of their appearance. On Friday evening he scurried around washing, cleaning, and shredding. I was distracted by social media, cuddling with the cats, and Modern Family reruns.

On Saturday morning I was up ridiculously early sweeping, vacuuming and cooking while he slept in. When the timing felt right I made enough noise to wake him up.

When it comes to projects that require our immediate attention and cooperation, we work very well together.

As long as we stay away from each other.

My mate will work on things until midnight and not be tired, but the growl he emits some mornings when the alarm starts ringing would send Bigfoot back into the woods. I, on the other hand, am falling asleep on the sofa by 8 p.m. many evenings. Morning hours are my most productive. That is why many times I start writing this column early Monday evening and might only get halfway through before I’m brushing my teeth and climbing into bed. That Tuesday morning you will find me typing, proofing and editing as early as 5 a.m., feeling refreshed and ready to tackle such subjects as tourists or junk email.

We didn’t decide on this pattern of collaboration of sorts, it just happened that way. Our partnership happens to consist of working separately, though it doesn’t always go smoothly. For instance, when we think we’re “helping” each other and are actually reversing the process.

Spouse: “Are you done with the Swiffer?”

Me: “No, I still have to use it in the kitchen.”

Spouse: “Oh… so I guess I shouldn’t have put it back in the closet yet.”

Me: “Please stop being helpful.”

I don’t think we're so different from many others who get a little lax with the housekeeping (to put it mildly) until someone else is going to enter our abode. At that moment we initiate our cleaning method, which is more of a stuff-it-in-the-closet/drawer/spare bedroom system. Hey, everyone has their own way of cleaning. Let’s face it - if I ever considered hiring someone to clean periodically, I would have to spend a week scouring before I would let them enter my home so they don’t leave screaming down the street.

But I digress. My point is that Spouse and I complement each other in our own odd way when it comes to panic cleaning, which is not all that different from panic harvesting, if you happened to be here last week.

It’s good to have someone who will work with you, even if the unspoken rule is that you are really working alone for the sake of avoiding a cleaning war. Of course, in last weekend’s case The Love Couple decided to surprise us by pretending to be at least an hour away. When they did arrive early I was still in my pajamas, unshowered and reeking of furniture polish and that morning’s breakfast. Naturally, I was not going to complain about having even more time with them.

We probably need to time things like showers a little better. Then again, hopefully the scent of furniture polish and breakfast felt like home to The Love Couple.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Time to hurry up and harvest

This weekend my freezer is filled to overflowing with various containers of stuffed peppers, tomatoes, eggplant dishes and a squash concoction - the result of a garden that seems small until we hit what I like to call Harvest Panic Season.

It began last week when temps plummeted from 70 to 40 in a matter of a few days. We knew we weren’t due for a frost yet, but it was still time to bring in our garden booty. Here is my method: cook, blanch, peel, slice, drag out every plastic container I own for freezing, then finally name the item and mark the date on the container so that I can easily identify them when I find them four years from now.

We really do try to use whatever we can (and whatever we can’t pawn off on friends and coworkers), but we have to talk about the tomatoes. I mean come on, when Spouse trudges in with bags bursting with big red fruits and plops them on our not-very-spacious kitchen counter, it becomes a consume and conquer mindset.

Here’s the thing about those tomatoes. For the past few years I’ve convinced my husband The Gardener to cut back on the amount of tomato plants he purchases. Reining him in proved to be difficult at first, what with interesting tomato names like Beefsteak, Better Boy, Brandy Wine – and that’s only the B’s. And let’s not forget cherry or grape tomatoes. By the time we were stripping the garden we could have made a float for the Tomato Bowl Parade, if there was such a thing. Hey, if they could do it with roses, they could do it with tomatoes.

Zucchini squash is another story. Ironically, Spouse is not a fan of zucchini during any other time of the year, and yet we have never missed a season of squash planting. They must taste better after he sweats half his body weight off sticking them in the ground in July instead of May when we (excuse me – he) should have started planting.

You need to understand that I grew up in a house of cans. If we wanted vegetables we turned to Del Monte – none of this grow-your-own business. Cream style corn and French style green beans (French style was as exotic as it got) were regulars on our table, right next to a slab of beef and mashed potatoes or chicken and rice. If it was a weekend we had pasta with Mom’s delicious homemade sauce (as if there was any other kind) and salad with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers, but even that meal wasn’t vegetarian, because you didn’t have pasta sauce in our house that wasn’t loaded with ground beef.

Then I met Spouse (long before he was given that moniker) and I was introduced to his family’s garden. I should have known it was going to be trouble when his family tossed around words like Swiss chard and fertilizer as if they were naming puppies.

It has been a rewarding experience to grow our own veggies most of the time, like the year we got the most amazing Brussels sprouts ever, even though they were very small. There have also been garden fails, like two years ago when I thought I was buying cauliflower and it turned out I was the not very excited owner of six cabbage plants. Don’t you know those suckers came back the following year?

Fortunately, I have learned to make pretty good vegetarian dishes, and if they are lacking my technique is to throw in some chicken for balance. Still, we have an overabundance of one particular item. So in Henny Youngman style, if you happen by my house this week you may see a sign that says “Take my tomatoes… please.”

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The "other" tourist season in Maine

Summer is over, school is back in session, and the sidewalks in Portland are once again quiet and easily maneuvered - a stark contrast to those congested summer days.

Or so you would think.

The truth is, this is hardly the end of tourist season. In fact, another aspect of tourism is in full swing. Several times in the fall I drive into Portland and witness a change in the skyline that only happens when towering cruise ships come into port, spilling tourists out in droves.

This is a different sort of clientele, often retirement age or close to it (though there is no hard and fast rule that says you can’t be young and enjoy a cruise), and mainly without children since they’re back in the classrooms. The cruise ship crowd is usually adorned with some sort of identification dangling around their necks, naming both the ship and the passenger. I think it’s kind of funny because there is no lost and found booth for tourists in Portland that I know of.

Similar to the summer mob, this wandering crew also carries maps of the local area, searching out restaurants and gift shops. But before they get very far these folks are greeted by a very special breed of Mainer.

The crafters.

You can find any number of fun items along the sidewalks of Portland when the ships arrive. Maine is represented in knitted mittens, lighthouse photographs, gemstone jewelry and many other unique pieces on display. These hard working people are dragging their tables and many bins out and setting up eye-catching displays before cruise ship passengers have even had breakfast. They offer friendly smiles and stories of Portland Headlight’s history or the best places to search for tourmaline. I imagine cruisers must spend the evening cramming irresistible handmade trinkets into their luggage.

Cruise ships sound like floating adult amusement parks to me. What with the constant entertainment, pools, shopping and nonstop eating, a ship can fulfill the wishes of just about anyone who takes the plunge into the cruising world.

Spouse and I have talked about going on a cruise someday. Though I’m not totally sold on the idea, I guess it would be fun to be on the other side of the ship, you know, the side that’s sitting on the top deck with a cool drink instead of staring in wonder at one of these mammoth vessels. Of course, we would have to come across a fantastic price, so we’ll probably wait for one of those last minute deals where we’re not sure we would actually have a cabin... ma
ybe just a seat on the lido deck. Hopefully we wouldn’t have to clean the pool to earn our keep.

Our niece and her husband - both far from retirement age, by the way - came through Portland on a New England and Canada Cruise just last week. Spouse and I met them for lunch, which was a bit ironic considering their only time visiting us in Maine happened because they left Connecticut to board a ship that brought them here via New York and Boston on their way to Halifax and Nova Scotia. That’s a pretty roundabout way to meet for lunch, I would say!

I’m not sure Spouse and I will actually ever dive into the cruise experience. Maybe with the right amount of seasickness medication and enough activities and food to distract me, though, I might be willing to let someone navigate a gigantic tub across open seas with me in it.


Sunday, September 27, 2015

What really bugs me about having the stomach bug

Last weekend Spouse and I spent the majority of the time sharing something we really dislike sharing: a stomach bug.

It started in the wee hours of Thursday morning when I woke to my mate racing down the (thank goodness) short hall to our bathroom and returning than 30 minutes completely drained, literally. I prayed it was just some bad Pad Thai he ate the night before and that he would feel better when it was closer to dawn.

No such luck. While I headed into work, Spouse spent the whole day sleeping, sweating and umm… err… well, draining. By the next morning he felt good enough to shower but that was about as much as he could motivate himself to do. As he crawled back into bed I moved along and got ready for my Friday, hoping that constantly cleaning the bathroom, changing the towels and moving my toothbrush far away from his would help me avoid whatever this was.

Apparently not.

Sometime on Friday afternoon I started feeling wonky. You know how, when you’re just on the verge of getting ill, your head doesn’t quite match with your movements? That’s wonky. I left work a couple of hours early and started to regret it when I got home because within a half hour I was feeling pretty normal (for me).

And then the night came, and with it what I can only call Montezuma’s Revenge. Though my most severe bout with it lasted just over half as long as Spouse’s did, I felt weak until sometime Sunday evening.

The killer about being ill in September in Maine is that it is September in Maine. This is absolutely my favorite time of year. The air turns a little more crisp and clean, you get to have blankets on at night, fall festivals are in full swing, and it’s the perfect time to enjoy being outside during the day.

Except you can’t go outside with Montezuma’s Revenge. You can stand longingly just inside the door and breathe in the magnificent fall scents, and you might even venture outside to collect the mail or the newspaper. But that’s as far as you’re going, buddy, unless you have a port-o-potty in your yard. That is how much warning this bugger – I mean bug – gives you before you need the facilities.

My point is, the Best Season Ever in Maine is also the shortest, and being stuck inside was torture.
Being taken down by this dang virus meant that we missed a few things last weekend. There was a great local beach event that required athleticism and prowess (we were going to watch) and a special potluck breakfast as part of a celebration at our church (we were going to eat). I was going to get my hair cut by some fabulous stylist I have yet to find, and a substantial part of the weekend was planned for trying at least half of the 15 zucchini recipes required to use up our harvest.

Instead we barely ate (fine, that didn’t exactly hurt us), watched endless NCIS reruns (it was a McGee marathon) and dealt with headaches from lack of caffeine (two days of not being able stand the scent of coffee).

Thankfully, by Monday morning we were both feeling good enough to go to work.

Wait - did I say I was thankful to go to work? Well, at least it meant I got to leave the house.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Traveling vicariously was all right with me

I should start here by telling you that I am not an adventurer in any way, shape or form. I like the simple, local, non-daring type of outing. So how Spouse and I came to make flight reservations to go not only to Budapest to visit Second Born in less than ten weeks, but continue on to India for First Born’s second wedding ceremony with The Groom, is beyond me. I mean, really, beyond me.

It’s not because I’m afraid of flying. It isn’t the idea of being in another continent where I am completely unfamiliar with the language and culture.  And it is not because this is (and probably always will be) the most expensive vacation we have ever considered.

It is All Of It.

For the past few years I’ve told people I’m living vicariously through my children. First Born has been to Las Vegas a couple of times and she got engaged while in Bora Bora. Yes, I had to look Bora Bora up to see exactly where she would be. Then the Love Couple went on a whirlwind tour of Paris and Rome for their honeymoon.

In December they will head to India for an authentic wedding ceremony in the country where The Groom was born and lived until he was around middle school age. 

Now, stop me if I’ve mentioned that Second Born is in Budapest for her study abroad semester. You didn’t really try and stop me, did you? That would be hilarious.

My point is that it’s all been just hunky-dory to let the kids have their adventures while I stay right here on my sofa waiting for their return or calls or Skype sessions describing these wonderfully exciting excursions.

Oh, but no. We discovered at The Love Couple’s wedding in May that some of our family members have been planning to also attend the India ceremony. That was all Spouse needed to hear. Not to be left out of another family affair, he decided that going to the India ceremony would be fun. Exciting. Interesting even.  Then I foolishly mentioned that IF we were to make such an elaborate trip, we couldn’t very well go all the way to India and not see Budapest, especially since Second Born would not be able to be at the ceremony.

So our flights are booked – Boston to Budapest to India and back to Boston within a two-week period. I’m jet-lagged just writing that.

I also have an unnatural fear of getting stuck inside the airplane restroom just as we hit turbulence. At some time in my life I must have watched a movie with such a scene – that’s the only explanation I have for this paranoia. Just in case, though, who knows if I can get a diagram of each plane we will be taking so I know how to get out of the bathroom?

I have to believe that having one or more irrational fear is normal when one is doing something this far out of their comfort zone. This is so beyond my comfort zone that it has its own zip code. But I also have faith that I will learn to stop holding my breath every time the subject of flying for more than seven hours at a stretch comes up. I believe that we will have perfect tour guides, first in Budapest with Second Born and then in India with First Born’s in-laws. There really is not a down side to making this trek, even though I could concoct dozens of them given the chance.

With the help of breathing exercises, healthy habits for the next few months and maybe just a tiny bit of chocolate thrown in for balance, this will be an extraordinarily memorable trip of a lifetime.

And it may even be the first time anyone has ever wanted to live vicariously through me.
(a sign in Budapest - comforting!)

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Still learning, thanks to bottle caps

It’s funny how some of us (like yours truly) shrug off conventional learning but can be like sponges when it comes to absorbing lessons learned in the oddest of ways.

So it was with my Snapple cap. Last week I had a hankering for raspberry iced tea, so I wandered over to the corner market near my office and purchased a drink. Just a few minutes later I was sipping a deliciously refreshing beverage when I noticed that the writing inside the cap mentioned Portland.

The fact that I was able to decipher the message is notable because I have been attempting to adapt to wearing contacts. Sometimes I can read with them and sometimes everything looks like a big blur. Either the contacts or my brain need an adjustment. In the meantime reading is a minor challenge, especially tiny words on a round piece of metal. If you’re wondering how many words fit on a bottle cap, the answer is just enough to get my attention.

According to my raspberry iced tea bottle cap, our little city of Portland was named before Portland, Oregon. That’s right, folks, we were first even though everyone assumes the Portland you’re talking about is on the other side of the country. Ironically, Portland, Oregon earned its designation with a coin toss.

I know, right?

Apparently, there were two guys who owned a bunch of land on the waterfront in Oregon, and they both wanted to name the territory after their hometown. You already know one of them was Portland, Maine. The other (get this) was Boston, Massachusetts. They decided to flip a coin for the decision. Portland won. Sort of.

I know this is the unpolished version of the story but you can look it up and correct me if you’d like. No, wait - please don’t. This is still more accurate than my joke telling.

I can’t tell you how many times Spouse has run into problems at various jobs because of that “other” Portland, from packages being delivered to the wrong state to travel agents almost booking him on a return trip three time zones away. If he had been there he would have rigged that dang coin in favor of the Boston native.

There are tons of other tidbits of information to be found on Snapple bottle caps. Some are very surprising (penguins can jump six feet) and some are… well, just plain strange (a duck has three eyelids). They are all potential conversation starters – or stoppers, I suppose. What impresses me is that I remember many of them. Honestly, it surprises me when I remember anything.

But this isn’t school and there will not be a test, so I feel perfectly qualified to even repeat some of what the caps teach me and share my newfound knowledge with others.

Every day we are bombarded with all sorts of marketing tools on most things we consume. Whether it’s an eye-catching container, a coupon, or a UPC code that enters you in a contest, there isn’t much we make contact with that doesn’t entice us to buy more.

You have to wonder (fine, I have to wonder) why a beverage company would replace marketing their own product to its clientele with a little trivia. Maybe they are just hoping to enlighten us. Or maybe there’s a subliminal sales pitch in each little known fact. What if they’re disguising a deal within the message that it’s illegal to sing off-key in North Carolina? What if the cap informing us that one acre of peanuts will make about 30,000 peanut butter sandwiches is designed to make us thirsty?

I do have to say some people take this stuff way too seriously. It really wasn’t necessary to kick me out of the grocery store. I was just showing the cashier that there are 293 ways to make change for a dollar.

My lemonade cap told me so.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Meeting the grandkitties (and adding a fur baby of our own)

Last month we finally got to meet the two newest members of the family. First Born and The Groom adopted not one, but two adorable kittens. Hayley, a feisty female tuxedo cat, has been keeping them on their toes (which she likes to bite) since late last fall. Simba, a charming male tabby, just joined the fray last month. It took a while for Hayley to decide she wanted a sibling, but now they are the best of buds.

It is quite humorous to hear The Love Couple talk about how having two cats is the closest they want to get to kids for now. It is also very telling to watch them in action with their fur babies, caring for them and enjoying them, except maybe when it’s 3 a.m. and the two little monsters decide it’s play time.

I think they would be outstanding parents if they so choose, even at 3 a.m. I also think we would make pretty good grandparents, based on the fact that I’ve already taken to spoiling my grandkitties.  They deserve special collars and new toys. I love when we chat on Skype on our computers and the kittens are causing a calamity in the background.

You know how sometimes a woman might be around a new baby (they smell so good at that newborn stage) and start to thinking maybe she’d like another little one, especially if her growing children aren’t needing her quite as much? Well, being around kittens made me want to have another. Cat, that is. After all, we lost our sweet girl Reeses more than a year ago and have casually mentioned bringing another cat into the household. Sophie, Second Born’s cat, probably should have had a vote.

This past weekend we brought some donations to our local animal shelter and thought we would take a look around while we were there. You know, in case something of the feline persuasion popped out at us. We have sworn off dogs until at least one of us is either working from home or retired. Cats don’t need quite the amount of companionship dogs do. In fact, they often let you know when your presence is required.

Spouse and I discussed ahead of time whether we wanted a kitten (not necessarily) or an older cat (not one with a lot of medical issues).  We went in with the idea that the right cat – and hopefully not more than one – would choose us.

Enter Marcy. A sweet, affectionate, petite girl at six years old, Marcy was rescued from a hoarding situation with about 30 other cats. She suckered us in with her cropped tail and persistent push of her head against our hands the second we started to pet her. As cute as the kittens were, we knew chances were pretty good that they would find homes. Not as many folks want to bring home an older cat for various reasons.

The only one who keeps trying to vote the newest member off the island is – you guessed it – Sophie.  I have faith that she will come around, especially since Marcy has a very docile disposition. 

We are learning the hard way that we simply lucked out with previous cat introductions where we just opened the cat carrier and let the two new roomies meet. That’s not going to fly in this case. We are studying up on separating them, having them both eat by the door (on opposite sides, that is), then slowly introducing them. I feel like I should take a leave of absence from my job just to help the process along.

So we are loading up on methods of bribery like cat treats and toys, and hoping the “kids” learn to play nice. This brings back faint recollections of the toddler stage with our kids.

Now that I think about it, toddlerhood may have been easier to survive.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Life should have a volume control

Recently I realized just how mature (we will not say “old”) my way of thinking is.

While we were in Philadelphia a couple of weekends ago the Love Couple brought us to a brewery. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, one where I expected most people to be outside walking and enjoying the warmth. But nooo. Somehow they all had the same idea – stopping by the brewery with all their friends, taking up a lot of space and talking. Loudly.

The din of voices and glass echoed through the high warehouse type rafters. We waded through the crowd and managed to find five seats together, but attempting to hear each other over the cacophony of storytelling, clinking drinks and laughter was useless. Sound reverberated off the walls to the point that I could not hear my own shrill voice as I struggled to talk to my family.

Now, I will admit I’ve been fighting Spouse’s idea of designating a local tap room as our almost-every-weekend stop. But at that moment I longed for the dark cellar and not-quite-comfortable seats, and even the shuffleboard game where I have found myself continually trounced by You-Know-Who (and he’s an obnoxious winner, which we will cover another time).

I forget sometimes that First Born and The Groom live in a huge city where it is rare to find an actual small crowd. When Mainers (or those of us from Away who claim to be Mainers) say “a few people” we are serious – there will be a few, as in three or maybe four people. In a place like Philly where “just around the corner” means a three-mile hike, a few people typically starts at 50. So there we were that Saturday afternoon, surrounded by a few people by city standards. I started taking to reading lips and didn’t dare separate from the rest of our crew.

I have never been one for very loud places, even though I was the lead singer of a band in another life (before my main talent became cutting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches into sailboats). My rowdy days took place more than three decades ago, when I knew the words to songs that hadn’t been in a Disney movie. No part of me is up to dealing with deafening entertainment at this stage in life. In other words, my midlife crisis will have nothing to do with grabbing the microphone and storming the stage again. But oh, I could tell you some stories.

Even though our kids are grown and we are allowed to have a life of our own once again, I believe Spouse would agree with me. We’re good with it being a quiet one. We can still be a fun couple (yes we can, stop laughing) but we’d prefer not to lose our hearing within a half hour of amplified imbibing and millennial musings.

That’s the other thing. I don’t enjoy feeling like I’m the oldest one in the place. You know it’s a bad sign when you look around a crowded brewery and you’re wondering why none of these kids is getting up and giving you their seat. That was what I found most confusing about our stop that day. What were all these young people doing at a brewpub in the middle of the day? Don’t they start their pubbing at 10 p.m., after I’ve fallen asleep watching Modern Family reruns?

A few nights ago I had crawled into bed and was just getting comfy, when voices and laughter from our next-door neighbors’ backyard drifted into our bedroom window. My first thought was: Are they really up this late? Don’t they know they shouldn’t be making noise past…

My eye came into focus with the numbers of the clock in disbelief.

It wasn’t even 9:30.

So maybe it’s me and not the noise. Maybe in my next life I will be a big clanging bell or a megaphone. I just can’t think about that right now.

It’s after 9:30.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Short showers – it’s all relative

Last weekend Spouse, Second Born and I went on a mini-vacation. By that I mean we sat in standing traffic that stretched a seven hour trip into ten, slept in strange beds/cots/air mattresses for three days, and ate too many enticing foods which we will be paying for over the next couple of days.

It was awesome.

We got to see The Love Couple (First Born and The Groom) and enjoy a beautiful baby shower for our New Jersey relatives. It was the last time we’ll all be in the same place at least until spring, so the time together meant a lot.

As a family we travel pretty well, including when The Love Couple joins us. We do not, however, agree on what time we are leaving the house.

Wait – I take that back. We agree on the time. However, certain members of “We” are never, ever ready on time. The biggest issue?

Showers.

How long should a shower be when you have to leave the house? I say Move it. The majority is still sleeping on it. Literally.

Our bathroom fan’s timer has several options. I use the 15-minute button. So does Spouse, but the length of his shower is twice that. He likes to say he sets the fan for 15 minutes but neglects to mention that he starts it up again as he’s drying off. Cheater.

First Born is much like me – done in a jiffy and announcing shower availability (and like me, pushing her hubby along). On the other hand, her younger sister takes after their father. You know, the guy who can turn showers into Olympic events.

Second Born doesn’t even bother with the fan because she can out-shower any amount of time she would plug in. Her typical showers take the same amount of time as washing a load of laundry. I’ve considered throwing a few of items of clothing and some detergent in with her and asking her to stomp, rinse and repeat.

Here’s the thing. As the shower water is running my mind is typically thinking about what needs to get done before we are leaving. Every once in a while I’ll reach to turn off the water before I’ve rinsed off because my mind has jumped to making a fruit and cheese tray or finding my one pair of dressy shoes… something that takes more time than I think we will have in order to stay on track. Not that we are ever anywhere near the track by the time we get out of the house.

Even when I’m not in panic mode halfway through shampooing, my showers are more or less express showers.

Spouse blatantly admits he simply daydreams. He doesn’t worry about anything, not even running out of hot water, because we have a tankless hot water heater. You can stay in there until you’ve turned into a prune and that dang water will still be hot.


I’m pretty sure Second Born has picked up the daydream habit. By the time she saunters out the room is so full of steam that the fan, which she turns on when she is done, is choking and gasping.

I tend to try and make up for their lack of shower consideration by being the first one to shower so I can spend the rest of the time harassing them to Hurry Up.

It clicked to me recently that I don’t need to do this. Since I’m the quickest one I can actually be the last one to take a shower. That would give me more time to relax, I thought. I can snooze a little longer, maybe flip on the television and catch the news.

Who was I kidding? Once I’m even the slightest bit awake my brain is in full agenda mode. I may as well just get my shower over with and let the badgering begin.

You might be thinking their ability to relax in the shower is a balance to my frenzied hurry-up-and-get-to-the-next-thing mentality.

I’m thinking I should replace the bottle of body soap with Tide.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Making new friends (at our old age)

Are we any good at making friends when we get to the age where we call each other “honey” so we don’t have to remember each other’s name? Should we be trusted with new people?

I found out recently that it is possible to make new friends and even remember their names after 30 seconds. I would use mnemonics to recall names, but then I’d have to know what “blue” or “ocean” or “shish kabob” is supposed to remind me of. I have just had to learn to pay close attention and not let the voices in my head distract me.

A month or so ago I ventured into a frozen yogurt wonderland in Portland to purchase a signed copy of a new book by a local author. I hadn’t met her before but I was among her many social media connections and we had exchanged a few messages in the last year or so.

Stepping forward and choosing a copy of the book, I sheepishly offered the correct spelling of my name, not expecting her to remember it from her nearly 500 Facebook friends. She invited me to have a seat and we chatted briefly. She even gave me very sage advice on the best way to order frozen yogurt from this particular establishment. I felt some bonding going on.

A few days later I sent her a message and suggested we meet up sometime in Portland for more frozen yogurt or maybe dinner.  Soon after we were able to get together for dinner in between my work hours and a workshop I was attending. It was a really nice conversation and it went by very quickly. I was tempted to bail out of the workshop and just keep talking, but I left the diner feeling confident that there would be other chances to get to know each other better.

I had made a new friend. I was so excited that I just wanted to tell someone. But how does a 50s-something-year-old woman announce something like this? And why, exactly?

Let’s face it - it’s not always easy to make the acquaintance of someone that’s not from the inner circle we manage to corral ourselves into as time goes by. But even if we have been eligible for AARP for a few years, we still want to think of ourselves as interesting enough to engage in conversation with someone other than the UPS driver or the cat.

The funny thing is that I was actually nervous about meeting my author friend. Naturally, my nerves were completely unwarranted, but I think some of it comes from not often having to identify ourselves.

Back when our children actually wanted us to volunteer at their schools or on field trips, we typically didn’t really have any identity other than so-and-so’s mom, or maybe The Mom Who Makes Awesome Cupcakes. That wasn’t me, by the way.

Last week Spouse and I were invited to dinner with (follow closely now) Second Born’s Best Friend, her parents, and another college roommate from Pennsylvania who, along with her parents, had been vacationing in the area. The giddiness and excitement of our three girls during their reunion was palpable and adorable to witness.

Over the course of the evening we found our own tier of friendship with the other couples. Spouse and I had spent time with Best Friend’s folks but this was different from circling our vehicles on the college campus trying to jam everything in for the trip home. This was an actual social occasion where we were learning a lot about each other. Here we were more than just The Parents.

So there is hope. We can still make new friends at our age and with our feeble name recollection skills. We have also realized how important it is to nurture the friendships we have had for years. They can’t be taken for granted if we expect them to still be around. And the great thing about old friends is that we already know their names.

I just wish I knew why our friend Shish Kabob doesn’t return our calls.